Some Thoughts on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited

I realize it's been a long time since I've done a blog post. Part of the reason for that is because I've been very busy putting out some new titles in the Caverns and Creatures series.

You're welcome. 

But the main reason I haven't posted anything lately is because I wanted to write this particular post, and I had to wait for some numbers to roll in.

Back in mid-July, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited (KU), a subscription deal in which readers can now pay $9.99 a month to read all the books (which are included in the program) that their hearts desire. This caused quite a stir in the self publishing world.

Just so we're on the same page, let me brief you a bit on KDP Select.

KDP Select is a program in which you, the author, agree to sell your ebooks exclusively through Amazon for a period of 90 days. No B&N, no Smashwords, not even from your own website. In exchange for your exclusivity, you are rewarded with certain benefits.

1. You earn higher royalties for books sold in certain parts of the world.

2. Your books are available for Kindle Prime customers to "borrow" from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL). Each borrow earns you a share of a fluctuating amount of money called the KDP Select Global Fund. (More on that in a bit.)

3. And you get to choose, if you wish to do so, five days during which your book will be free.

Those were the benefits way back when I pulled Critical Failures off the e-shelves of all the other distributors and signed up. My sales everywhere else were so lousy that Amazon's exclusivity requirement didn't seem like too big a loss.

Since then, Amazon has sought to tempt more authors with added benefits.

4. Kindle Countdown. I was happy with how things were going before, but the Kindle Countdown is where I really started to see my sales taking off. This is an alternative to the free promotion days I mentioned just above. The difference here is that, instead of making your books free, you just discount them. That may not seem like such a big deal, but there are a few very nice advantages about this.

a. When your book is free, you tend to pull more readers in because there are searchable lists for free books. Well there are also searchable lists for the Kindle Countdown, so you can still get some of that sweet, sweet cheapskate money.

b. You can choose to have your book in the Countdown for up to seven days, as opposed to only five free days.

c. If you have a very successful free promotion, your book may soar to the top of the free lists in your book's genre(s), but once the promotion ends, you'll be back down at the ass end of the regular paid lists. But if you do well with a Kindle Countdown promotion, and your book soars to the top of a paid list, then when the promotion ends, you're still standing tall and proud.

And that brings me back to mid-July, when Amazon unleashed its latest forbidden fruit...

5. Kindle Unlimited. I've already explained KU from a reader's point of view, but what does it mean to a lowly self-published author like myself? 

When a reader hits the 10% mark on one of my books (s)he has borrowed on their KU subscription, I get credit for the borrow. If the word "borrow" looks familiar, you'll notice the same term was used for the Kindle Prime members I mentioned as part of the initial benefits of KDP Select. And, in fact, those borrows are identical as far as they concern me. Even in my Amazon reports, they don't even bother to separate them. They just lump them together as one.

As I mentioned before, an author doesn't earn a specific amount of money for each borrowed book. Rather, they earn one share of the KDP Select Global Fund, which is however much Amazon decrees it will be on any given month. Historically, one borrow has been worth a fairly consistent two dollars for an author. 

But with a whole new rush of added borrows flowing in, it could mean those shares might get a whole lot smaller. Here's another graph.

Care to take a guess at when Kindle Unlimited was introduced?

Care to take a guess at when Kindle Unlimited was introduced?

That big jump in borrows you see is right around the time Kindle Unlimited was  introduced. Just looking at the graph, you'd think that was great news. But what if this was happening to everyone? The shares those borrows are worth could be dropping from two dollars a piece down to twelve cents or something!

And this is why I've waited until now to write this blog post. The royalties from July have come in, and I did some calculations to see just how much those July borrows were worth. I forgot the exact amount, but it came to comfortably over two dollars a piece.

That's fucking great news.

Mind you, I was never thinking about bailing on KDP Select. And I'm not just saying that to look cool in retrospect. Even if the borrows were only twelve cents a piece, I would have stuck with it, because those borrows are giving me something better than money. 

That's right. They're giving me sex.

"Ah, but can you not use money to buy sex?"

"Ah, but can you not use money to buy sex?"

You are indeed wise, Mr. Llama. I was only kidding about the sex thing anyway. What I'm really talking about is exposure.

"Exposure will not lead to sex. It will lead only to incarceration."

"Exposure will not lead to sex. It will lead only to incarceration."

That's not what I was talking about, Dolly. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I'm talking about making my books known to a larger crowd of potential readers, which is one of the biggest challenges a self-published author faces. Take a look at my fantasy author rank over time.

I've indicated with red arrows the big jumps in ranking I earned through Kindle Countdown promotions, and if you look closely enough, you'll see that my post-promotion fall plateaued just a little bit higher with every one.

The green arrow marks the beginning of Kindle Unlimited. All of those borrows count toward book rankings and author rankings. Notice how the rank jumps up and just kinda hangs out up there. Compared to what I was doing before, I have been rocking the shit since July.

The continuing two-dollars-a-share royalties on borrows is just icing on the cake.

Click here to visit my Amazon page. :)

Correction. It looks like either my math was off, or there was some other factor I wasn't accounting for, but from what I gather from my research since then, the price-per-share of KU/KOLL borrows has been around $1.30. While that's significantly less than the $2,00 (+/-) average we were seeing before KU, my feelings about KU and KDP Select haven't changed.